Public servants under pressure to return to their desks

Ministers are expected to increase the pressure on UK civil servants to return to their desks, as the revolution in Whitehall’s post-Covid work models in the age of flexible work has become clear.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Secretary of the Cabinet Office responsible for government performance, wrote to cabinet members indicating that many departments had empty desks, despite repeated requests for office space. repeated that they should make full use of the available office space.

Boris Johnson has also repeatedly called on civil servants to set an example by returning to the office – a move seen as crucial to revitalizing city centers and improving collaboration among staff.

Rees-Mogg wrote to colleagues: “We must continue to accelerate the return of civil servants to office buildings to realize the benefits of face-to-face, collaborative work and the broader benefits for economy.”

He said he and Steve Barclay, Johnson’s chief of staff, wanted ministers “to send a clear message to the civil servants in your department to ensure a speedy return to office”. “Significant progress is needed,” he said.

However, the FDA civil services union accused Rees-Mogg of focusing on counting employees to Whitehall rather than productivity and delivery levels. It said: “Ministers should care about what is delivered by civil servants, not where their desks are.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said he wanted ministers to ‘put a clear message out to civil servants in your department to ensure a speedy return to office’ © PA

Johnson and Rees-Mogg have repeatedly faced resistance from officials accustomed to flexibly working and operating from home for part of the week since the pandemic.

To illustrate the new working patterns at the heart of government, Rees-Mogg has attached a union table that lists the departments that have the fewest employees coming to their Whitehall office as a percentage of total occupancy. office space.

The Department of Education desk is said to be the least used of the week – operating at 25% capacity; followed by the work and pensions division, at 27%, and HM Revenue & Customs, at 33%.

The Departments of International Trade and the Ministry of Health have the highest number of desks, with more than 70% in use.

In January, Johnson urged Whitehall staff to “show leadership and make sure we get back to work” when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

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